Sunday, May 21, 2017

The mission: Claytonia

Comox is a beautiful little (pop. 13,000) coastal town half an hour's drive south from Campbell River. I got lost there twice in two days, and enjoyed every minute of it.

I had been asked if I could collect seeds of the Pale Spring Beauty I had found years ago on the Boundary Bay dunes. Not likely, I said, unless I can find the plants here on the Island. And then a friend showed photos of the flowers, taken in Comox. I asked her for the location - Kin Park, just above the shoreline - and planned a trip when they would have gone to seed.

Claytonia exigua, Boundary Bay, April, 2011. Under two inches tall.

The roads in and around Comox wind around, uphill and down, through forests, past open marsh, farm land, residential areas, never keeping to the same direction for five minutes at a time. At this time of year, especially, with the sunlight glowing through new leaves and the signs warning us to watch for deer, it's easy to get distracted.

Friday morning, I mapped out my route carefully, as usual. But I missed my turn and ended up at a dead end, at the Little River restoration project. No sign of Kin Park, but I had to be close; I left the car and walked through wetlands and a housing development to reach the shore. In less than an hour of searching, I found my Claytonia. Two large plants, the largest almost 6 inches across, and gone to seed!

Home again, hot and tired, still dizzy from the heat, and with a camera full of photos, I checked Google maps again, found my missed turn, looked at Kin Park, and decided to go back the next day.

This time, I turned too soon, drove around in circles until I ended up at a dead end in Kye Bay. Retraced my route twice, found the road I needed, and finally, found Kin Park, and three large patches of Claytonia. Mission accomplished!

The largest of the plants, about 6 inches across, growing near the base of a stump buried in sand. Little River area.

Seed pods, almost ripe.

Claytonia grows, according to E-Flora, in "Moist, open vernal sites,"; where I have found them, each time, has been just at the intersection of dunes and open meadow. The tiniest were in dry spots; the larger ones were sheltering at the base of logs and a stump, where a bit of moisture still remains even on sunny days.

More photos of Claytonias and other shore and wetland plants next.

(And now I have to go back to Kye Bay; chocolate lilies grow there!)

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